Women In Construction

Sept. 28, 2010
Sterling Expands Into Commercial Construction

Christine Sterling, owner of Benzella Management Group, Inc., of Detroit, has approximately six years of experience in the construction industry.

Sterling Expands Into Commercial Construction

Christine Sterling, owner of Benzella Management Group, Inc., of Detroit, has approximately six years of experience in the construction industry.

"I started as a laborer. I started out with a $1 house from the city of Detroit. I had a three-year contract to repair the house and when I finished repairing the house and completed the contract, I paid $1 for the house. I gained interest in the construction field from that experience," Sterling said.

"I went to Habitat for Humanity and I met someone that gave me my first opportunity to work as a laborer. I started out framing floor joists and walls, painting and drywalling.

"Then I was employed by another construction company. I learned tiling, carpentry, etc. Then when I went to a third construction company I learned roofing. I learned about roofing materials, siding, gutters, and basement renovations. While I was working at these three companies I learned how to do electrical and plumbing work.

"I also started investing in property in 2004 and rehabilitating those properties. I taught myself a lot, like how to deal with contractors and subcontractors and how to contract and subcontract work out. I started my company in 2004. I've been in the residential renovation field since 2004.

"Now I want to go more into commercial construction work, although I am continuing to do residential work." Sterling said that she is currently doing more construction management work.

"I seek out commercial contracts and hire contractors and subcontractors to complete the jobs. I expanded into commercial work in January," Sterling said. Sterling does work in the city of Detroit, but she plans on expanding her business to other parts of Michigan as well as other states surrounding Michigan.

"I enrolled in Macomb Community College in January and I'm taking classes in construction technology. That's when I decided to go into commercial construction," Sterling pointed out.

"I'm also in the state of Michigan Contractors Assistance Program. The program teaches how to run a business and provides bonding, insurance, networking, and residential licensing information." She said that it provides everything that needs to be known about running a construction business, including marketing, advertising and setting up a business profile.

Sterling explained that it's still tough for women to succeed in the construction business. "The guys look at women as not being able to uphold their position in the field. Women may not have the opportunities that men would have. But, it's starting to change," Sterling said.

"It was difficult for me at first. They wouldn't believe that I would climb on a roof, strip it, and then shingle the roof, but I will. But, when the guys saw that I was really interested in working and serious about what I was doing, then I gained the respect on the job by some of them."

Sutton Has Extensive Experience

Kerry Sutton, P.E. received her undergraduate degree from Michigan Technological University in environmental engineering. She received her master of science degree in civil engineering from Wayne State University.

Sutton started her career in the construction field with Stone & Webster Engineering in Boston, Mass., where she did field inspections for pipeline construction. She oversaw large water treatment projects. She worked at Stone & Webster from 1989 to 1991.

She worked for Holcim (US) Inc., a producer of cement in Dundee from 1991 to 1999, as a corporate engineer and then in manufacturing and sales. "That's how I got involved with the paving industry. Many of my customers were paving contractors," Sutton said. Since 1999, she has worked for the Michigan Concrete Paving Association (MCPA). She is currently director of Engineering for Southeast Michigan.

"I've had a great experience in the construction business. I've learned a lot. I love the people I work with. They work very hard. I love seeing the projects being built," Sutton said. She feels that there are a lot of opportunities for women in the construction business.

"Traditionally, people might think that it's not a field for women, but I think that it's a great field for women. I think that there are a lot of companies that are willing to hire women." She said that she feels that women in the construction business should go out and tell others about their experiences. She said that there should be a commitment to look for women who might be interested in a career in the construction business.

Faught Has Design, Field Experience

Nancy Faught, P.E., an associate with Hubbell, Roth & Clark (HRC), designs roads for the firm. "If we are hired by the client to do the construction engineering, then typically, in the past, I've been the project engineer," Faught said.

Faught received a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Michigan State University. Her first job in the construction field was working for the Indiana Department of Highways in 1987 as a construction engineer on roads and bridges. She also went through the Indiana Department of Highways' training program.

She has been working at HRC since 1988. "In those days, you would design a job and then you would go out on the job and be an inspector. You would get construction experience so that you could take that back to the design phase in the winter. In those days, we would design in the winter and construct in the summer. The philosophy was to try to get the inspector or designer out into the field so that they could get some practical experience in construction and utilize that experience in design in the following year," Faught said.

For the past approximately nine years, she has been in management at HRC, managing road designs and construction engineering projects.

"I think that the opportunities for women in the construction field are outstanding. There are very few women in civil engineering. I think that the opportunities are as good for women as they are for men, and that's all you can ask for," Faught said.

"I think that the opportunities for women in construction management are much better then when I started out."

Dobson Is Safety Director

Kathleen Dobson, safety director — Automotive Market for Alberici Constructors, Inc., of Livonia, came to construction and Alberici from safety work at Vlasic Foods. She has worked for Alberici since 1999.

"I started with Alberici as a project safety coordinator at the DaimlerChrysler Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. I worked there for approximately two years. From there, I've traveled for Alberici to several different project locations around the country," Dobson said.

Dobson became the Great Lakes regional safety manager in 2005 and this past June she was named the Automotive Market safety director.

Her current responsibilities include working with the project management team to help them establish a safe work culture on a project and to assure that it's being implemented and followed.

"I feel that Alberici holds safety as its highest priority and that's what I try to emphasize when I work with the project management teams, because I think that to have zero injuries on a project shouldn't just be a goal, it should be a commitment that we make to everyone," Dobson said.

"As the safety director over the Automotive Market, we have the responsibility to make certain that we know what projects are ongoing and where help is needed. We provide the project with the proper support, whether it be providing on-site management, making referrals, or doing audits and inspections."

Dobson is the 2007-2008 National Association of Women In Construction (NAWIC) Detroit Chapter 183 president. She is also on the Associated General Contractors Michigan and Construction Association of Michigan safety committees. In addition, she has been involved with Michigan Construction Safety Day.

"I don't think that people are used to seeing women in the construction business. I'd like to see that change. I'd like to see folks be much more comfortable with us. I was challenged when I first started performing fieldwork activity. But, in reality, the folks out there are willing to accept you provided that you are consistent in your approach, provided that you are straightforward with them, provided that you demonstrate to them that you are concerned about their safety and the safety of others," Dobson said.

"You can't go into a situation and try to tell someone how to do their job when you've never done their job. I think a lot of times people perceive, not only women, but men as well, in safety, as trying to get them to change their job, but what we're really trying to do is to maybe have them change the behaviors that they are demonstrating when they are performing their tasks." She said that she feels that the construction industry is ready and willing to accept women.

"Some of us that have been out there working for five or 10 years have helped to break the ground and make people more comfortable with us. I see a lot more women coming into our company who are project engineers and project management-type folks. I'm very happy to see that they're being embraced with open arms," Dobson said. She said that girls need to be encouraged to consider construction careers at a young age.

"I think we need to start out at an early age, telling girls in school and young women in college that it's OK to go into a field that is typically male-based," Dobson said.

SSOE Hires Health Care Planner

SSOE, an architecture and engineering firm, has announced the appointment of Sara Thompson, I.I.D.A., as healthcare planner, senior interior designer and associate. Thompson brings 10 years of design experience with a strong background in healthcare to SSOE. Her experience includes being the primary planner for a multitude of projects.

"Sara brings with her significant health care planning experience — in new and existing facilities, from renovations to replacement hospitals — with an interior design viewpoint. Her unique perspective adds yet another dimension to our health care planning and master planning staff," said David Rose, A.I.A., principal and Healthcare Division manager.

Thompson will be responsible for developing space and function programs for medical facilities including master and equipment. She will be fully responsible for interpreting and executing projects including overall accountability for budget, quality and coordination.

Before joining SSOE, Thompson worked with two design firms as both an interior designer and planner. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in interior design from Michigan State University and is a member of the International Interior Design Association.

Nola L. Lee Honored

Nola L. Lee, Business Development representative for Aluminum Supply Company Inc. of Detroit, was the recipient of the Eighteenth Annual "2007 Ability is Ageless" award. The award ceremony and luncheon was held on Thursday, October 24, at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, in honor of all of the nominees. The purpose of this award is for employers to recognize and thank their mature workers — the people who play a valuable role in their company's success on the job and in the community. Nancy Marshall, president of Aluminum Supply, said she nominated Lee because of her work ethics, personality, attitude, and much more. Since 1989, the luncheon has been hosted by Operation ABLE of Michigan. Carmen Harlan, WDIV-TV senior anchor, served as emcee of this special event.

Hobbs+Black Makes Personnel Announcements

Karin Deam-Mengozzi, R.A., joins Hobbs+Black as a project architect with 11 years of professional experience in health care, educational, and residential projects. She previously worked in a small Ann Arbor residential architectural firm and in two large Chicago, Ill., architectural firms. Deam-Mengozzi earned a master of architecture degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago, and a master of arts in Chinese studies from the University of Chicago.

Diane McIntyre, R.A., A.I.A., is a project architect with over 18 years of professional experience that includes educational, multifamily housing and mixed-use commercial projects. She will be working as part of the Hobbs+Black retail studio.

McIntyre is affiliated with the National American Institute of Architects (AIA), AIA Michigan, and AIA Huron Valley, where she will be serving as events director for 2008–2009. She received a bachelor of architecture from Boston Architectural College.

Betsy Hobbs Wagner, I.I.D.A., has been promoted to vice president. Wagner joined the Ann Arbor office in 1998 and is currently the director of Interior Design. She specializes in retail and commercial design, with experience in furniture specification, finish specification, color scheming, design development, and construction documentation. Wagner's recent assignments include multiple projects for Atria Senior Living Group in the Midwest as well as projects with Oakwood Southshore Hospital in Trenton, Mercy Memorial Hospital in Monroe, and Shamie Development Corporation in Ann Arbor.

Kristen A.G. Schleick, A.I.A., A.I.C.P., has been promoted to associate. Schleick joined the Ann Arbor office in 2005 and is a project architect and urban planner with nine years of experience. She has worked on diverse projects including religious, institutional, commercial, and mixed-use developments and designs on a variety of scales.

Cheryl Bowlson Honored

Cheryl Bowlson, Business Diversity manager for Barton Malow Company, has received a 2007 Special Business and Community Service Award from the Booker T. Washington Business Association (BTWBA). She was honored for her long-term involvement in business and community programs, which has substantially benefited African American firms, the city of Detroit, and the citizens of Southeastern Michigan. All together, there were 12 recipients of the award, conferred October 25 at the St. Regis Detroit Hotel.

"Barton Malow has a strong commitment to business and workplace diversity, and this honor reflects well on all we strive to accomplish," Bowlson said.

Barton Malow Company provides construction management, design-build, program management, general contracting, technology and rigging services nationwide. Niche market specialties include health care, educational, federal, industrial, energy, and special event facilities. Barton Malow has a staff of over 1,300 and is a Best Places to Work company headquartered in Southfield, with offices in Chicago, Ill.; Jacksonville and Orlando, Fla.; Atlanta, Ga.; Baltimore, Md.; Charlottesville, Va.; Columbus, Ohio; and Phoenix, Ariz.